What’s The Priority?

“We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in priority sequence.”

I’ve heard this automated response dozens of times from different companies. The first time I heard it was when I was on the phone with the gas company. To the gas company’s credit, they gave another number to call if the call was about a gas-related emergency.

My call was about my bill and a problem with it. I patiently waited on the line and kept getting subjected to the automated response. My patience started to wear down after hearing the message over and over again and waiting for someone to just answer my call.

After an excruciatingly long time, my call was answered and I exploded at the agent. “Your message says that calls are held in priority sequence. Well, how do you know what the priority is if you never get to me?”

The agent didn’t have an answer for me. It was his time to be patient. He dealt with my problem in an effective manner, even though I was rude to him. He had no control over the automated operator at all.

This happened years ago and I’ve never really forgotten it. Well, today, I was subjected to this message again when calling about my credit card. I decided to look up the word “priority” because I always took it to mean that there are things that are more important than others and are put in order according to importance.

But I was surprised to see the definition of priority as “the fact or condition of being prior; precedence in time…”

I stopped reading. The telephone message actually makes sense. The calls are taken in the order that they are received.

I always thought of priority as the third definition listed; “a right to precedence over others in obtaining, buying, or doing something.”

For example, hospital emergency rooms put patients in priority sequence. They take the serious patients who need immediate treatment first and assess which patience need care before others.

So I learned something new today. I learned that priority can also mean just a regular line up.

I must admit that I don’t like this definition even though I know it is correct. I just find it misleading. I want companies to tell us like it is. Can’t they just program the phones to say that the calls will be answered in sequence?

Let’s leave out the adjective “priority.” In fact, if you are in charge of the company phone system please make this a priority, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

2 Comments on What’s The Priority?

  1. Hi Chase,

    That’s maddening, isn’t it? I call a few places and they use the sequence message. They come on and say, “you are caller 7, and your call will be answered in approximately X number of minutes. Knowing I have a certain period of time to wait makes it a little more bearable.

  2. Hi Barbara,

    I much prefer that type of system as well. I guess it is hard to predict how long each call will be, but a realistic estimate would be nice.

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